Louise Haigh says Keir Starmer does not disagree with her over saying she would not campaign for UK in a border poll, but he should disagree

News Letter editorial of Tuesday November 30 2021:
News Letter editorialNews Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

Earlier this year there was a little noticed but very important commitment from Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour Party leader.

Pressed by the BBC NI political editor Enda McClafferty as to the circumstances in which he could envisage a border poll, and how he would respond to that eventuality, Sir Keir said that he believed in the United Kingdom and would campaign for it.

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It was a major statement from Sir Keir, which got nothing like the publicity it should have done — or indeed would have done had he shown ambivalence on the matter.

His answer seemed to be a sign of his determination to move his party away from the radical politics of his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn, who would never have made such a pledge, and who refused repeated opportunities put to him by journalists to say he unequivocally denounced IRA terror.

Sir Keir realises that this sort of anti British thinking is deplored by the Labour voters who defected to the Tories in northern England and elsewhere in the last general election.

While Sir Keir and his shadow secretary of state for Northern Ireland Louise Haigh appeared to get on well on the surface, and might well have done so in reality too, there was a different emphasis with regard to NI policy at times.

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Ms Haigh was for example highly critical of the government’s decision not to hold a public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane. Sir Keir was wisely quieter on that, given the millions that have been spent on that one case and the hundreds of terrorist murders have had little or no scrutiny.

Last week, Ms Haigh said that she would not campaign for NI to stay in the UK in any border poll, contradicting his own position. Was this deliberate? Were both caught on the hoof when asked in their interviews about a possible plebiscite?

Sir Keir has not sacked Ms Haigh but moved her to an important post transport. He ought to have been annoyed by her failure to defend the UK and it is to be hoped that we will not see such positions again from a prospective UK governing party.

(This editorial was written late on Monday but early on Tuesday Ms Haigh has moved to clarify the position, saying she was “not moved for restating a 25-year old Labour Party policy” — a statement that raises fresh questions for Labour as to its position on a border poll).

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